August 12, 2010

...Cappuccino Parfaits

No Sisters Night is ever complete without dessert, so after this and this, we indulged in a not-so-sinful, but definitely tasty concoction.  

With only four simple ingredients and about 10 minutes of work, you, too, can have a delicious dessert that won't leave you feeling guilty for days.

The cool, creaminess of the parfait matched with the crunchy bite of the cookie was a perfect balance for a sweet after-dinner treat.

Cappuccino Parfaits
serves 4

1 container (15 ounces) part-skim ricotta
1/3 cup sugar
2 teaspoons instant espresso powder
4 crisp amaretti cookies

In a food processor, puree the ricotta, sugar, and espresso powder until very smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed, 1 to 2 minutes.

Dividing evenly, spoon the mixture into 4 glasses or serving dishes.  Refrigerate, covered, until ready to serve, at least 30 minutes and up to 1 day.

Just before serving, crumble the cookies over the parfaits.

Taylor's Notes:
I had ground espresso on hand and used that.  I think it worked just fine, the end result was just more granulated than the image in the cookbook.

I only got 3 servings out of the recipe, about 1/2 cup each, so I would double it if you plan on serving more.  But actually, the servings I made were a bit on the heavy side, so I would say go for smaller servings... four out of this recipe is probably just about right.

I added a little more sugar while I was blending the ingredients just to make it a bit sweeter.  Maybe a tablespoon or two more - do whatever tastes right to you.

I couldn't find amaretti cookies, so bought Pepperidge Farm Bordeaux cookies instead for their claim of "carmelized sweetness."  Because, really, who doesn't love espresso and caramel?


... White Bean and Thyme Crostini

Now here's a tasty little snacker that takes just minutes to whip up and was the perfect accompaniment to dinner with the sisters.

The warm white bean and garlic mixture was perfect on top of a crusty french baguette and the fresh thyme was so fragrant you could hardly wait to take a bite.

White Bean and Thyme Crostini
serves 4 (2 slices each)

1 French baguette
4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1/3 cup cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves

Preheat oven to 475 degrees.

Arrange 8 (1/4-inch thick) baguette slices on a baking sheet; brush with 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil.  Bake at 475 degrees for 4 minutes or until golden.

Saute minced garlic in remaining 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil for 30 seconds or until fragrant.

Stir in cannellini beans, salt, and pepper; mash with a fork.  Add 1 tablespoon warm water and fresh lemon juice.

Spread 1 teaspoon on each baguette slice; sprinkle evenly with fresh thyme leaves.

Taylor's Notes:
I think this is definitely one I'll keep on hand.  It was perfect for my small get together, but would be a perfect dish to make for a larger party since it has such few ingredients and is so easy to make.

Again, I think I may be getting the hang of this cooking thing having just eyeballed the amounts of ingredients and actually sauteed the garlic with 2 tablespoons of olive oil rather than 2 teaspoons.  The end result came out just fine and I liked that it was a little creamier due to the extra oil.    

The fresh thyme is a must - don't skimp and buy the dried stuff.  The fragrance and extra flavor that it gives are definitely worth the extra trip to the store.


... Pasta with Asparagus, Pancetta, and Pine Nuts

Sisters... I'm lucky enough to have three of them.  Ok, so only one is technically my real sister, but the other two may as well be.  And I'm even luckier that two of the three live right here in KC.  (miss you, Ash!)  We decided to get together for a little vino, some food, and a lot of girl talk.  

I've had this recipe on my must-try list for a while now and decided now was the perfect time to try it out.  All signs led to very good things: pine nuts, pancetta, asparagus, cheese, pasta.  Why it took me so long to make, I don't know.  

With just a bit of easy prep, we had a great pasta meal to soak up all that wine enjoy with each other.  Aren't sisters the best?!

Pasta with Asparagus, Pancetta, and Pine Nuts
serves 4

8 ounces uncooked cavatappi pasta
1 pound asparagus, trimmed and cut diagonally into 1 1/2-inch pieces
1 teaspoon minced garlic
3 tablespoons pine nuts
2 ounces diced pancetta
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup (1 ounce) crumbled Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat; add asparagus to pan during last 3 minutes of cooking.  Drain.  Sprinkle pasta mixture with garlic; return to pan, and toss well.

Arrange pine nuts in a single layer on a jelly-roll pan.  Bake at 400 degrees for 3 minutes or until golden and fragrant, stirring occasionally.  Place in a small bowl.

Increase oven temperature to 475 degrees.

Arrange pancetta on jelly-roll pan.  Bake at 475 degrees for 6 minutes or until crisp.

Combine lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper, stirring with a whisk.  Drizzle over pasta mixture; toss well to coat.  Sprinkle with pine nuts, pancetta, and cheese.

Taylor's Notes:
This recipe was really 'by the book'.  Not much deviation here, except I may or may not have bumped the amount of pancetta to twice the requirement and it's very possible I just eye-balled the lemon juice - olive oil dressing mixture.  But isn't that what cooking is all about?  Enjoying the moment, doing what feels right, and reaping the benefits at the end?  I'd say so!


August 5, 2010

... Chicken and Guacamole Tostadas

Ok, kids, get ready for the easiest, tastiest, and freshest no-cook summer meal ever.  Yes, ever.  And it only takes 20 minutes to throw together.  I know, right, it's a busy girl's (or guy's) dream come true.  Start with fresh veggies: tomatoes, avocado, lime, onion, cilantro.  Add in fresh jalapeno and garlic.  Layer it all on a crunchy corn tortilla with some spiced up rotisserie chicken and you've got dinner.

The creamy avocado-turned-guacamole is a delicious addition to the spicy-but-not-hot chicken and the cool, fresh tomato salsa is just the right topper for this ready-in-a-minute meal.

serves 4 (2 tostadas each)

1 ripe peeled avocado
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons finely chopped tomato, divided
3 tablespoons minced fresh onion, divided
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice, divided
1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
1 small garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon fresh chopped cilantro
1 tablespoon minced seeded jalapeno pepper
2 cups shredded skinless, boneless rotisserie chicken breast
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
8 (6-inch) corn tostada shells

Place avocado in a small bowl; mash with a fork.  Stir in 2 tablespoons tomato, 1 tablespoon onion, 1 tablespoon lime juice, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and garlic.

Combine remaining 1 cup tomato, 2 tablespoons onion, 1 tablespoon lime juice, 1/4 teaspoon salt, cilantro, and jalapeno; toss well.

Combine chicken, remaining 1 tablespoon lime juice, and paprika; toss well to combine.  Spread about 1 tablespoon guacamole over each tostada shell; top each with 1/4 cup chicken mixture and about 2 tablespoons salsa.  

Taylor's Notes:
I made this for just me and I honestly didn't pay much attention to the measurements of ingredients.  For the guac, I used half an avocado, the juice from half of a lime, half of a roma tomato, a little onion, the whole garlic clove and a dash of salt.  For the salsa I used the remaining half of tomato, a little more onion, the other half of the lime, another dash of salt, and a sprinkling of cilantro.  I totally missed the fresh jalapeno in the recipe when I was making my grocery list, so I just used some homemade pickled jalapeno peppers that I had in my refrigerator (thanks Larry!!)

I had leftover rotisserie chicken from an earlier recipe I'd made and I definitely used more than 1/4 teaspoon of smoked paprika.  Just eyeball it and if you like more of that flavor add more, if you don't, use less.  

I'll most definitely be eating this one again soon!